Thursday, May 26, 2011

Jewish Music Week comes to Toronto

A first for Toronto, Jewish Music Week is something to get excited about. This week-long festival is an impressive feat made possible by the collaboration of dozens of Jewish organizations across Toronto. The festival has been on since Sunday and will continue until this Sunday, May 29. There are several events every day except for Shabbat, and few of them include Klezmer - a testament to the diversity of Jewish music!

The festival got off to a fun start Sunday afternoon at the Jays game. Some members of the Cantors Assembly sang beautiful, harmonized versions of the Canadian and American national anthems before the game. (In case you were wondering, the Jays lost 3-2).

Following the game, the cantors and others headed over David Pescaut Square to celebate Lag B'omer with performances by the Associated Hebrew Schools Choir, and a Jewish-Latin band. It was a beautiful day to be at an outdoor concert and the delightful Jewish-Latin beats had people dancing.

There are still dozens more events to check out but these are a few that stand out.

What: Music for a Jewish Gospel Service - with the one and only Mike Stein
When: 10:45 AM
  • Not the first time Jewish gospel has made an appearance in Toronto!

What: Gala Evening Concert: Halleluyah! Greatist Hits of Israel's Song Festivals
When: 7:30 PM


What: Jewish Classical Music with "String Theory"
When: 3 PM
  • String Theory is Toronto's latest professional string ensemble!
What: A Movie and a Schmooze - "100 Voices" Film followed by Bantor with the Cantors
When: 7:30 PM
  • Admission is exclusive to ticket holders of the Gala Evening Concert on Wednesday so plan ahead.

What: Lunch Time Music - Klezkonnection
Where: Ben Sadowski Auditorium, Mount Sinai Hospital
When: 12 PM
  • Klezkonnection is a community klezmer orchestra. You might have seen them wowing the audience at the 2010 Ashkenaz Festival.!

Shabbat Bonus: There will be 4 unique musical ways to usher in Shabbat on Friday night. Check the schedule to find the one that's right for you.

What: Community Melaveh Malka
When: 9:45 PM - after Shabbat

What: Jewish Big Band featuring Bob DeAngelis and his Champagne Symphony Big Bandk
When: 7 PM
  • The official closing party of the Festival!

Casandra Campbell

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tarek Fatah & the Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards

It’s that time of year again: warmer weather, leaves on trees, gardens growing and… the very best in Canadian writing on Jewish themes and subjects! The 23rd annual Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Awards returns on May 30 at 8 PM – this year at the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon at Toronto Reference Library, 789 Yonge Street. The ceremony is FREE and will be followed by a book signing with ALL the winning authors – please join us and bring your friends!

Each year, the Jury decides on the number and type of awards depending on the submissions and their eligibility. This year, six awards will be presented for books published between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010.

Tarek Fatah’s critically acclaimed The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism has won in the Politics and History category. Fatah’s second book, it debunks the anti-Jewish writings of Islamic literature and argues that hating Jews is against the essence of the Islamic spirit. The Jury commended Fatah on his courage to write the book, and his “diligent scholarly and journalistic research examining the historical, political and theological ideas. In the end the book is a personal history of a journey towards tolerance and reconciliation.” Fatah also spoke on the book to a full house of over 500 people at the Toronto Jewish Book Fair back in October 2010 (see some pics here on our Flickr page).

Fatah (pictured above) will be there on Monday to accept his award with family and friends. It will be his first public appearance in almost 4 months – he has been courageously battling cancer and undergoing treatment since February. Fatah told us he is looking forward to putting on shirt and tie for the Awards ceremony – that it’s “literally the first day of the next part of my life.” He also told us that copies of The Jew is Not Enemy have been smuggled into Pakistan and that people have been asking for the Arabic-language version of the book.

Far to Go by award winning Toronto-based author Alison Pick (above) – an epic historical novel tracing one family’s journey from Czechoslovakia to Canada during the Second World War – has won in the Fiction category. The book has been praised across the country and beyond and was called “one of the best books of the year” by CBC Radio’s Shelagh Rogers (read an interview with Alison in The Forward here). 

Mordecai: The Life and Times, Charles Foran’s (above) definitive, detailed, intimate portrait of legendary Canadian author Mordecai Richler, has won in the Biography & Memoir category.

The 2011 winners are:

Alison Pick, Far to Go
Published by House of Anansi Press Inc.

Tarek Fatah, The Jew is Not My Enemy: Unveiling the Myths that Fuel Muslim Anti-Semitism
Published by McClelland & Stewart

Robert Eli Rubinstein, An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life In Canada
Published by Urim Publications

Charles Foran, Mordecai: The Life and Times
Published by Random House Canada

Harold Troper, The Defining Decade: Identity, Politics, and the Canadian Jewish Community in the 1960s
Published by University of Toronto Press

Judie Oron, Cry of the Giraffe
Published by Annick Press

See you on Monday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CONTACT Festival on a rainy day!

So… it’s been a cold, soggy spring. If you’re feeling a bit down due to the Vancouver-like rain and the lack of Vitamin D (I know I am), great art is always a sure bet to drive the grey-weather blahs away. The Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival – the world’s largest photography festival – continues all around the GTA until May 31. There are SO many great installations to check out, both inside and out, so rain or shine you’ve got no excuse not to check out the best photography the world has to offer in our own backyard.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Ed Burtynsky: Oil at the Institute for Contemporary Culture (ICC) at the ROM – features over 50 large-format photographs by the Canadian superstar artist. Images of oil extraction and refinement, its architecture and associated environmental destruction are simultaneously gorgeous and disturbing – Burtynsky captures the apocalyptic beauty of humanity’s industrial influence on the landscape.

Fred Herzog: Vancouver at MOCCA. I can’t get enough of Herzog’s gorgeous, colourful, sometimes bleak but incredibly human photos of Vancouver and its downtown (particularly the downtown eastside and Main Street areas) taken in the 1950’s and 60’s. He really captures Vancouver at a turning point in its cultural transformation – if you’ve spent time in Vancouver you realize how he’s captured the essence of the city: the colour, the grime, the streetscapes, the neon, the light (when the sun shines in Vancouver the light is like nowhere else), and the working class people who lived on its urban streets in the post-war period.

Also at MOCCA – Dynamic Landscape, a group show featuring a jam-packed gallery of stunning photographs by Olga Chagaoutdinova, Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Viviane Sassen, Dayanita Singh. This year, the large outdoor wall work that MOCCA commissions in its courtyard for CONTACT is What Isn’t There by Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzy.

Suzy Lake: Political Poetics at the U of T Arts Centre features recent time-based work by the seminal Canadian artist, who has made an impressive career out of her conceptual film, video, performance and photography works focused on the body and identity (Suzy was also one of our T-shirt models at the Koffler Gallery’s MIXEDFIT exhibition last fall).

Men in the Cities by American artist Robert Longo is a great outdoor installation at Metro Hall probably best viewed while on the King streetcar overcrowded with office workers… huge format photos of office workers jumping, dancing, posing, being generally un-office-worker-like.

And of course, there is the Koffler Gallery’s very own Share the Moment at the Sheppard Plaza – where artist Stephen Cruise has turned the old Kodak Fotomat into a tree-of-life with images collected from the community screened on the windows. Check out images from the opening on the Koffler's Flickr site.

There are literally hundreds of other CONTACT exhibitions and associated shows all over the city – check out their website and beat the rainy day blues with great art!

(Images from top: Edward Burtynsky, SOCAR Oil Fields #9, Baku, Azerbaijan, 2006, photo © Edward Burtynsky, courtesy Nicholas Metivier, Toronto; Fred Herzog, Man With Bandage, 1968, Courtesy of Equinox Gallery, Vancouver and Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa; Scarlett Hooft Graafland, Lemonade Igloo, 2007, Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery, London; Suzy Lake, Extended Breathing in Dappled Light, Performance/ photography, 2009, Courtesy of Paul Petro Contemporary Art; Robert Longo, Untitled (06), 2005, Courtesy of the artist and Adamson Gallery, Washington, DC; Stephen Cruise: Share the Moment, 2010.)      

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The Koffler has been teaching children and adults dance, music, painting, drawing, ceramics and more for 35 years. Our instructors are artists-in-residence, well respected across the city in their practices. Our students are artists, who enjoy the camaraderie of like-minds and other creative souls. Centrally located in the Prosserman JCC at Bathurst and Sheppard, our facility offers painting and ceramics studios; music rooms for individual and group ensembles; and state-of-the-art wooden sprung floors for dance.

The Koffler is looking for dedicated and experienced instructors to teach music (popular, classical and world), dance (folk and world) and visual art (contemporary and classical) courses in our 2011-2012 season.

If interested, please e-mail, mail or fax a resume and cover letter to:

Alexandra Sipos-Kocsis
Education and Student Services
Koffler Centre of the Arts
4588 Bathurst Street | Toronto | Ontario | M2R 1W6 | t 416.638.1881 x4269 | f 416.849.3136 |

Monday, May 9, 2011

Share the Moment

The Koffler Gallery just opened its latest off-site exhibition!

Stephen Cruise: Share the Moment
May 8 to August 28
Off-Site at the Sheppard Plaza
4400 Bathurst Street (NW corner of Sheppard)

View pics from the opening on our Flickr page here.

Share the Moment explores the North York landscape at a specific moment in the past to re-articulate its significance in the present. Toronto-based artist Stephen Cruise instills new life into the forgotten Kodak Fotomat: a drive-through photo-processing booth. By transforming the former Fotomat in the parking lot of the Sheppard Plaza, Cruise delves into a nostalgic era when film-based processing and car-centric convenience were novel. He revives this obsolete structure with photographs collected from the local community. These images are screened onto the windows of the booth in a continuous slideshow, illustrating neighbourhood life during the 1970s. By covering the kiosk with a photomontage that reproduces the image of a tree, Cruise invests the location with symbolism, positioning it as a tree of life that connects and preserves memories.

With its exterior refurbished to mimic bark and foliage, the Fotomat stands out against the landscape as a reminder of the impact that consumerism has had on nature. The simulated tree “disguise” uses the built environment to metaphorically reverse the obliteration of the natural landscape. The snapshots screened on the kiosk’s windows reconstruct a fragment in the history of the local community.

Share the Moment is a Featured Exhibition of Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. Exhibition is open until August 28 - daily, 24 hours/day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011



To make tonight's AN EVENING WITH KINKY FRIEDMAN accessible to everyone in the community who might wish to attend, we are making a limited number of special $50 rush tickets available for Kinky's performance and after-party!

Call 416.638.1881 x4269 to reserve your discounted rush tickets, on sale now until Wednesday, May 4 at Noon. A few rush tickets will also be available at the door, Will Call opens at 6 PM on May 4 at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kinky Friedman @KofflerArts

“I’ll be moving in the next few years to an oceanfront Florida retirement community. I sure don’t want to, but I’m Jewish, and it’s the law.” - Kinky Friedman

I could go on, and frankly, I don’t know where he gets his energy! Rather than read about Kinky Friedman, the best thing to do is watch and listen.

Richard Friedman - aka Kinky Friedman - is known for being a funny guy, but comedy is just the way he communicates. If you want to know what he really does, you’re better off asking what he doesn’t do.

Friedman’s a musician who has worked with Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, he has twice run for Governor of Texas, he has a summer camp called Echo Hill Ranch, he founded Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, he has served in the peace corps, earned a bachelor of arts - majoring in psychology - and he has even played chess against Samuel Reshevsky. He has written detective novels and a column for the magazine Texas Monthly, and even done some acting. Oh, and Kinky Friedman sells cigars.

Does the word politically incorrect come to mind? Yup, that seems to be what Kinky Friedman does best - in the best way possible! He'll be making a stop at the Koffler on Wednesday as part of his Springtime For Kinky tour and he won't be holding back. Join us for a hilarious evening of entertainment in Kinky Friedman's only tour date in Canada.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Smokin' Hot Reception 6:30pm | Performance 8pm
St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, 27 Front Street East
Tickets: $100 or $250 | 416.638.1881 x4269 |

Check out the Facebook event for more details and follow us on Twitter.

Casandra Campbell